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Commercial Drivers Get Added Protection against Coercion in New FMCSA Rule

A regulation issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will give commercial truck and bus drivers additional protection from being coerced into violating federal motor carrier safety regulations. The rule, which was proposed in May 2014, goes into effect on January 29, 2016.

The rule, released on November 30, prohibits any entity that operates a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce from coercing a driver and gives FMCSA enforcement authority over shippers, receivers, and transportation intermediaries, as well as motor carriers.

According to FMCSA, the rule responds to complaints from commercial drivers who reported receiving various forms of pressure to violate federal safety regulations, including those involving hours-of-service limitations designed to prevent fatigued driving, commercial driver’s license requirements, drug and alcohol testing, transportation of hazardous materials, and commercial regulations applicable to such activities as carrying passengers and moving interstate household goods. The threats include job termination, reduced pay, and forfeiture of favorable work hours or transportation jobs, FMCSA said.

“Any time a motor carrier, shipper, receiver, freight-forwarder, or broker demands that a schedule be met, one that the driver says would be impossible without violating hours-of-service restrictions or other safety regulations, that is coercion,” FMCSA Acting Administrator Scott Darling said in a November 27 statement announcing the rule. “No commercial driver should ever feel compelled to bypass important federal safety regulations and potentially endanger the lives of all travelers on the road.”

The rule establishes procedures for drivers when reporting coercion incidents and for FMCSA when processing such reports. FMCSA said a substantiated report of driver coercion could result in civil penalties and initiation of a proceeding to revoke a motor carrier’s operating authority. Any fines collected would be deposited into the Highway Trust Fund.

Drug and alcohol testing rules, hazardous materials regulations, and limits on drivers’ work hours also are covered under the regulation.

FMCSA is an agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a Labor Department entity, has provided whistleblower protection to commercial truck and bus drivers since the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (“STAA”) went into effect in 1982. STAA and OSHA regulations protect drivers from retaliation for reporting or engaging in activities related to specified commercial motor vehicle safety, health, or security issues. In June 2014, the FMCSA and OSHA signed a memorandum of understanding to exchange allegations of safety, coercion, or retaliation when drivers file them with the wrong agency.

During the four-year period from 2009 through 2012, OSHA determined that 253 whistleblower complaints from commercial motor vehicle drivers had merit, the FMCSA said, as reported byBloomberg BNA. In the same period, the FMCSA validated 20 allegations of coercion that commercial drivers filed with the Transportation Department’s inspector general.

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2018

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About this Author

Erik M. Dullea, Jackson Lewis, Mining Compliance Lawyer, Transportation Industry Attorney
Of Counsel

Erik Dullea is Of Counsel in the Denver, Colorado office of Jackson Lewis P.C.

Mr. Dullea practices in the regulatory compliance areas, with a focus on the mining and transportation industries and government contractors. He is a member of the firm’s Workplace Safety and Health and Litigation practice groups. Mr. Dullea has represented clients during adjudicative matters before various federal agencies, including the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Department of Homeland Security...

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James R. Mulroy, Litigation Attorney, Jackson Lewis Law firm
Office Managing Principal

James R. Mulroy, II, is the Office Managing Principal of the Memphis, Tennessee, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He has more than 30 years of trial and litigation experience in federal and state trial and appellate courts as well as before administrative judges and tribunals.

Mr. Mulroy has represented clients in dozens of labor and employment, civil rights, unfair trade practices and public accommodation cases as well as a variety of class actions and multi-party lawsuits. He regularly counsels clients on a broad spectrum of employment-related issues, including employment and separation agreements, personnel policies and handbooks, EEO training, FLSA and FMLA compliance, restrictive covenants, and reductions-in-force.

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